carpal tunnel syndrome treatment

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment depends significantly on an early diagnosis to help treat symptoms in order to mitigate pain.

Table of Contents

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that affects the proper functioning of the hand. However, this condition usually manifests as wrist pain, so a lot of people are unaware of what carpal tunnel syndrome is. Read on to learn about carpal tunnel syndrome and how to treat it.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common ailment that causes weakness, tingling, numbness, and pain in the wrist and hand. It develops when there is an increase in pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This nerve gives sensation to the middle finger, thumb, half of the ring finger, and thumb. It doesn’t affect the pinky finger (small finger).1

What is a Carpal Tunnel?

A carpal tunnel is a narrow tube or canal in the wrist. The carpal tunnel allows the tendons and median nerve to connect the forearm and the hand. The parts of the carpal tunnel are:2
  • Carpal Bone: These bones make up the sides and bottom of the tunnel. They appear in a semi-circle. 
  • Ligaments: This is the surface of the tunnel. It is a strong tissue that binds the tunnel together.
  • Median Nerve: This nerve gives life to all the fingers except the pinky finger. It also provides strength to the index finger and the base of the thumb.
  • Tendons: it has a rope-like structure. It connects the bones to the muscles in the forearm. They are responsible for the bending of fingers and thumb.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the repeated constricting and squeezing of the carpal tunnel in the wrist. It then presses down on the tendons and median nerve and causes them to swell, which disrupts sensation in the hand and fingers.3

What causes carpal tunnel depression in the first place? Here are some of the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome:4

  • Heredity: This is the most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people may naturally have smaller carpal tunnels, while others have undergone changes that affect the space between the carpal tunnel in the wrist. These can both lead to carpal tunnel syndrome at a higher rate than those who don’t have family with these issues.
  • Repetitive Hand Use: The continuous use of the wrists and hands for extended periods can stretch the tendons, leading to swelling. The swelling puts pressure on the nerve. 
  • Hand and Wrist Position: Continuous activities that involve extension or extreme flexion of the wrist and hand can add more pressure on the nerve. 
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that cause swelling and pressure on the nerve. 
  • Health Conditions: Arthritis, thyroid gland imbalance, diabetes, and rheumatoid are conditions known to cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

What Are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

These are some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:
  • Numbness, Tingling, Burning, and Pain: Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome experience these sensations in their thumb, other fingers, and can travel up to your forearm or shoulder as well. 
  • Shock-Like Sensations: These can radiate to the thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers.
  • Weakness and Clumsiness in the Hand: The hand becomes clumsy and weak, and you will find it difficult to perform hand functions like buttoning your shirt or making a fist.
  • Dropping Things: Because of the numbness and weakness of the hand, your hand loses awareness, and you begin to drop things.

Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Several factors have been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome. However, they may or may not directly cause the syndrome. Some may just increase the damage or risk of irritation of the median nerve. Some of these carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors will be detailed below.

Anatomic Factors

Dislocation, wrist fracture, or arthritis can deform the bones in the wrist resulting in a change in the space in the carpal tunnel and adding extra pressure to the median nerve. People with a small carpal tunnel have a higher chance of having carpal tunnel syndrome.5

Nerve-Damaging Conditions

Chronic diseases like diabetes can increase the risk of damage to the median nerve and cause nerve damage.

Inflammatory Conditions

Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis affect the walls around the tendons in the wrist. This adds pressure to the median nerve.

Medications

Studies have shown that there are several medications capable of causing carpal tunnel syndrome; for example, anastrozole, a drug used for breast cancer, has been linked with causing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Body Fluid Changes

Fluid retention can add to the pressure within the carpal tunnel, irritating the median nerve. It is most common during menopause and pregnancy.

Other Medical Conditions

Some conditions like lymph edema, kidney failure, thyroid disorder, and menopause can increase the chances of having carpal tunnel syndrome.

Workplace Factors

Using a vibrating tool or a work that requires continuous flexing of the wrist can increase the pressure on the median nerve or aggravate existing damage to the nerve.

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

These are the various ways health practitioners can diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. However, diagnosis usually starts with a review of symptoms conducted by your healthcare provider. Most symptoms usually occur while gripping a steering wheel or holding a newspaper or phone. 

Additional Testing to Diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Your doctor will conduct a physical examination after a review of symptoms you might be experiencing, and it usually involves testing the strength and “feelings” in your muscles. Based on the results of your physical examination, your doctor may recommend further tests such as the following:
  • X-Ray: The healthcare provider may take the X-rays of your wrist to check for evidence of trauma or arthritis. 
  • Ultrasound: A wrist ultrasound may be needed to get a clear picture of your bone and nerve. This will show if the nerve is compressed.
  • Electromyography: This is used to test the little electrical discharges from the muscles. Your health provider will insert a tiny electrode needle into specific muscles to initiate electrical activity as muscles relax and contract. 
  • Nerve Conduction Study: Two electrodes are attached to the skin in an electromyography version. A brief shock is delivered to the median nerve to determine whether electrical impulses in the carpal tunnel are delayed. 

Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are quite a number of non-surgical and surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. Treatment also includes a change in lifestyle and the use of alternative medicines to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome’s impact. These treatment options will be detailed further below.

Nonsurgical Therapy

If the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are noticed early, non-surgical treatment can be effective. These include:
  • Wrist Splinting: Wrist splinting holds the wrist in place while sleeping. This can reduce the nighttime symptoms of numbness and tingling. You can also use splints during the day. 
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, and others) can help relieve carpal tunnel syndrome pain in the meantime.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids reduce swelling and inflammation, relieving the pressure on the nerve. Your carpal tunnel can also be injected with corticosteroids such as cortisone to ease the pain. An ultrasound might sometimes be used to guide the injections.

Surgery

Carpal tunnel surgery is preferred when the symptoms have gotten much more severe. They are:
  • Endoscopic Surgery: In this surgery, the doctor makes one or two smaller skin incisions and uses an endoscope to see inside your wrist and hand. A special knife would be used to section the transverse carpal ligament.
  • Open Surgery: A tiny incision is made on your palm, and your doctor will be able to view the inside of your wrist and hand. Here, the doctor will divide the roof of the carpal tunnel (transverse carpal ligament). This will expand the tunnel and reduce pressure on the median nerve. The ligament may grow back after the surgery, but there will be extra space in the carpal tunnel, so the pressure on the nerve will be relieved. 

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

These are some home remedies and lifestyles you can leverage to be able to manage carpal tunnel syndrome effectively:5
  • Take short, frequent breaks from repetitive activities involving the use of the hands
  • Rotate your wrists and stretch your palms and fingers regularly
  • You can do carpal tunnel exercises like stretching and rotating the wrist. 
  • Take pain relievers
  • Wear a snug wrist splint at night
  • Avoid sleeping on your hands, as this can aggravate the effect of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Alternative Medicine

These are also some alternative treatment approaches that can help relieve carpal tunnel syndrome. They include:
  • Yoga: Yoga balances, stretches, and strengthens your joints and upper body. It can also help boost grip strength and relieve pain.
  • Hand Therapy: Research shows that some occupational and physical hand therapy can reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  • Ultrasound Therapy: Ultrasound therapy can also help increase the temperature of specific body areas to promote healing and reduce pain. It should be done for several weeks to get the desired result. 

How Can I Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

carpal tunnel syndrome treatment
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be quite challenging to diagnose and treat effectively. However, it is possible to prevent it. Some ways of preventing carpal tunnel syndrome include:6
  • Take Short, Frequent Breaks: Bend and gently stretch your wrist and hand periodically. Try to alternate tasks as much as possible, even if it is just for an hour.
  • Improve Your Posture: Wrong postures push the shoulder forward, compress the nerve in the neck and shorten the shoulder and neck muscles. This can affect the hand and wrist, thereby causing pain.
  • Change Your Computer Mouse: Ensure your computer mouse is comfortable so it doesn’t strain your wrist.
  • Keep Your Hands Warm: Working in a cold environment makes you more likely to develop stiffness and pain in your hand. If you cannot control the temperature, you can wear fingerless gloves that keep the wrist and hand warm.

Get Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome At J. Flowers Health

J. Flowers Health is the perfect place for you if you’re searching for effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. At J. Flowers Health, you will have access to all the treatment and care you need to take care of carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact us today, and we will help you mitigate pain and regain autonomy over your life.